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"The entire system of fixing old roads and rails and financing new ones is breaking down—just ask Boston.

Anthony Flint
Aug 27, 2015

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Image PROMichael Day / Flickr An extension of the MBTA Green Line (shown here in 2011) is estimated to cost $3 billion. (PROMichael Day / Flickr)

For the Greater Boston area, the revelation of massive cost overruns in the planned extension of the MBTA’s Green Line was déjà vu all over again. Another mega-project, the Big Dig, famously ballooned from $2 billion to $16 billion, and the state is still struggling with paying for its portion, well beyond the federal funding that was provided.

Most planners believe that extending the iconic Green Line from its current terminus at Lechmere station in Cambridge northward through the adjacent city of Somerville is a very good idea. It’s one of the basic expansions of the MBTA system—others include connecting the Red and Blue lines, or extending the Blue Line to Lynn—that is an exercise in building on an excellent century-old network. Just a tweak, with huge returns for improved access, and opportunities for transit-oriented development.
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The original estimate was around $500 million, in part because the subway line, for a portion of the project, could share a right-of-way used by commuter rail. The alignment otherwise darts through industrial areas currently in transition in Somerville, known around here as the Brooklyn of Boston. Even in these lean times for federal funding for transit projects, it was a no brainer.

Then came this week’s buzzkill: the cost could be closer to $3 billion, with the state on the hook for at least $1 billion of that. Nothing is easy.

But the increase in the estimated cost also raises philosophical questions of another kind. How can cities even think about building costly new infrastructure when so much time and money is needed to fix existing infrastructure? And how can they proceed when those repair projects themselves end up costing more than first anticipated—not least because cars, trains, bicycles, and pedestrians need to keep using critical infrastructure while it’s being worked on?
Fixing the old

Over the past two years, Bostonians have been confronting the repair of existing infrastructure that has complicated the basic business of getting around. The reconstruction of two bridges vaulting the Charles River have been the most visible—like living with a never-ending kitchen renovation. The Longfellow Bridge, known colloquially as the “salt and pepper” bridge for its neoclassical granite towers, was built in 1908. The span connects Boston and Cambridge, carrying 90,000 Red Line passengers every day, plus 28,000 vehicles and an increasing number of bicyclists, pedestrians, and joggers. I was working in state government in 2006 when engineers informed us that the span, due to rust and structural issues and wear and tear, was in danger of falling into the river. It was wisely decided that this particular connection was pretty important and needed to be fixed.

Original estimates to reconstruct the bridge in place—the state couldn’t just build a new span, because the Longfellow is considered a historic landmark—were around $60 million. The bid amount for the job was approximately $255 million, says Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Traffic is one-way only for now, and Red Line trains continue to rumble down the center in both directions. The project is on track for completion by approximately November 2018, which is about two years behind the original schedule. Once the engineers get in there, they invariably find things were even worse than they thought.
Repairs to the aging Longfellow Bridge are expected to continue into 2018. (Soe Lin / Flickr)

Traffic is similarly reduced from four lanes to two (although running in both directions) at the Anderson Memorial Bridge, connecting the Allston neighborhood of Boston—home to Harvard Business School and Harvard Stadium, and prime for redevelopment—and bustling Harvard Square in Cambridge. Like the Longfellow Bridge, the Anderson bridge, finished in 1915, is considered historic and needed to be rebuilt in place, while continuing to be operational throughout. The crossing is at the site of the Great Bridge built in 1662, the first structure to span the Charles River and obviously a pretty important connection. The bridge itself is an elegant three-arch structure of unreinforced stone concrete, timbers, and brick finishes, adorned with lampposts and generous sidewalks that are filled with pedestrians most hours of the day.

I’ve been fascinated with this project, in part because I use the bridge just about every day. It seems to be taking a very long time. But the excavations and new abutments and towering cranes make it clear that this is a complicated bit of engineering surgery. The cost is a mere $28.8 million, and completion is set for June of next year. Inevitably, some new finishing touches have been proposed, such as an underpass at the banks of the river for pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers.

These projects are typical for many cities: vital infrastructure needs to be maintained, repaired, and improved. Too often this unglamorous and tedious work is put off, and we’ve all seen how that turns out—whether collapsing spans or water, sewer, or gas lines that theatrically fail. Cash-strapped cities dealing with unfunded mandates and declining revenues have had to make terrible choices. (The Lincoln Institute this week launched an effort to promote what we’re calling municipal fiscal health to get at the structural problems in the financial management of cities.)
Building the new

Compared with just averting insolvency, however, planning for capital projects—the new stuff—is even more fraught. Which brings us back to the Green Line. Massachusetts is trying to do both: fix the old and build the new. Former Governor Mitt Romney established the official policy of Fix It First, aimed primarily at halting proposals for new sprawl-enabling highways. The troubles at the T this past winter in the Boston area underscored how the system needs to get itself in order before even considering any expansion. But the Green Line is a vital piece of new infrastructure. In city building, transportation is destiny.
What we may be witnessing is a breakdown in the overall system for planning and financing infrastructure.

The project could become particularly agonizing for the Massachusetts transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack. As part of the advocacy group the Conservation Law Foundation, she helped sue the state to extend the Green Line, along with other transit improvements, as mitigation for the highway-centric Big Dig. Now in government, she may have to pull the plug on the very project she helped make happen.

It may not come to that. There are ways to cut costs, beginning with less elaborate stations. But what we may be witnessing is a breakdown in the overall system for planning and financing infrastructure. Elsewhere around the world, particularly in Latin America, fast-growing metropolitan areas have been experimenting with new land-based financing methods such as value capture, where private developers help fund infrastructure because it increases the value of their properties.
Something has to change in the metropolis continually under construction. Otherwise the old will continue to fail and the new won’t get built at all—hardly the vision of those who put all that infrastructure in place at the turn of the last century. Or, to take it further back to the Great Bridge of 1662, more than two centuries before that."

Aug 27, 15

"The Widening World of Hand-Picked Truths

AUG. 24, 2015
Credit Ellen Weinstein
[George Johnson]

George Johnson

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Nearly half a century ago, in what passed as outrage in pre-Internet times, people across the country became incensed by the latest edition of Time magazine. In place of the familiar portrait of a world leader — Indira Gandhi, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ho Chi Minh — the cover of the April 8, 1966, issue was emblazoned with three red words against a stark black background: “Is God Dead?”

Thousands of people sent letters of protest to Time and to their local newspapers. Ministers denounced the magazine in their sermons.

The subject of the fury — a sprawling, 6,000-word essay of the kind Time was known for — was not, as many assumed, a denunciation of religion. Drawing on a panoply of philosophers and theologians, Time’s religion editor calmly considered how society was adapting to the diminishing role of religion in an age of secularization, urbanism and, especially, stunning advances in science.
Raw Data
A collection of “Raw Data” columns published in The New York Times.

Cellular ‘Cheaters’ Give Rise to Cancer JUL 27
Humankind’s Existentially Lucky Numbers JUN 22
Human Ingenuity Takes On Cancer’s Darwinian Ways MAY 18
Dark Matter’s Deep Reach APR 20
When Science Is Lost in a Legal Maze MAR 23

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With astronauts walking in space, and polio and other infectious diseases seemingly on the way to oblivion, it was natural to assume that people would increasingly stop believing things just because they had always believed them. Faith would steadily give way to the scientific method as humanity converged on an ever better understanding of what was real.

Almost 50 years later, that dream seems to be coming apart. Some of the opposition is on familiar grounds: The creationist battle against evolution remains fierce, and more sophisticated than ever. But it’s not just organized religions that are insisting on their own alternate truths. On one front after another, the hard-won consensus of science is also expected to accommodate personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, about the safety of vaccines, G.M.O. crops, fluoridation or cellphone radio waves, along with the validity of global climate change.

Like creationists with their “intelligent design,” the followers of these causes come armed with their own personal science, assembled through Internet searches that inevitably turn up the contortions of special interest groups. In an attempt to dilute the wisdom of the crowd, Google recently tweaked its algorithm so that searching for “vaccination” or “fluoridation,” for example, brings vetted medical information to the top of the results.

But presenting people with the best available science doesn’t seem to change many minds. In a kind of psychological immune response, they reject ideas they consider harmful. A study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that it is more effective to appeal to anti-vaxxers through their emotions, with stories and pictures of children sick with measles, the mumps or rubella — a reminder that subjective feelings are still trusted over scientific expertise.

On a deeper level, characteristics that once seemed biologically determined are increasingly challenged as malleable social constructs. As she resigned from her post this summer, an N.A.A.C.P. local leader continued to insist she was black although she was born white. Facebook now offers users a list of 56 genders to choose from. Transgender sits on the list, along with its opposite, cisgender — meaning that, like most people, you identify yourself as male or female according to the way the cells of your embryo unfolded in the womb.

Even conditions once certified as pathologies are redefined. While some parents cling to discredited research blaming vaccines for giving children autism, others embrace the condition as one more way of being and speak of a new civil rights movement promoting “neurodiversity,” the subject of a book by Steve Silberman, published this month.

While this has been a welcome and humane development for those diagnosed as “higher functioning” on the autism scale, parents of severely impaired children have expressed dismay.

Viewed from afar, the world seems almost on the brink of conceding that there are no truths, only competing ideologies — narratives fighting narratives. In this epistemological warfare, those with the most power are accused of imposing their version of reality — the “dominant paradigm” — on the rest, leaving the weaker to fight back with formulations of their own. Everything becomes a version.

Ideas like these have been playing out in the background as native Hawaiian protesters continue to delay the construction of a new telescope on Mauna Kea that they say would desecrate a mountaintop where the Sky Father and Earth Mother gave birth to humankind. Last month, they staged a demonstration at the annual meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Honolulu.

There are already 13 telescopes on the mountain, all part of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, which was established by the state in 1968 on what is widely considered the premier astronomical vantage point in the Northern Hemisphere. After I wrote about the controversy last fall, I heard from young anthropologists, speaking the language of postmodernism, who consider science to be just another tool with which Western colonialism further extends its “cultural hegemony” by marginalizing the dispossessed and privileging its own worldview.

Science, through this lens, doesn’t discover knowledge, it “manufactures” it, along with other marketable goods.

Altruism and compassion toward the feelings of others represent the best of human impulses. And it is good to continually challenge rigid categories and entrenched beliefs. But that comes at a sacrifice when the subjective is elevated over the assumption that lurking out there is some kind of real world.

The widening gyre of beliefs is accelerated by the otherwise liberating Internet. At the same time it expands the reach of every mind, it channels debate into clashing memes, often no longer than 140 characters, that force people to extremes and trap them in self-reinforcing bubbles of thought.

In the end, you’re left to wonder whether you are trapped in a bubble, too, a pawn and a promoter of a “hegemonic paradigm” called science, seduced by your own delusions."

Aug 27, 15

Man Ray and the Art of Photograms
art, photography 27. August 2014 0 Tabea Tietz
Portrait of Man Ray and Salvador Dali, Paris
by Carl Van Vechten

On August 27, 1890, American modernist artist and photographer Emmanuel Radnitzky was born, better known as Man Ray. A significant contributor to the Dadaist and Surrealist movement, Man Ray produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known for his photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer.

Man Ray, born as Emmanuel Radnitzky, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. During the 1910s, the entire family changed their surname to Ray and Emmanuel also changed his first name to Man while many referred to him as ‘Manny’. His family was mostly active in tailoring and also the children, including Man Ray, where included in the business. During his years in school, Man Ray also educated himself with museum visits where he studied numerous art works. Despite the fact, that the young Man Ray was offered a scholarship to study architecture, Man Ray already chose to become an artist. In his family’s apartment, he established his studio and it is believed, that he stayed there for about four years. To finance his dream, Ray became a technical illustrator in Manhattan.

Even though Man Ray lived in New York City, he was mostly influenced by contemporary European works and his works showed many aspects of cubism. Also, Marcel Duchamp increased his interest in the movement of figures. His first known solo show took place in 1915 and one year later, Ray‘s first proto-Dada object, an assemblage titled Self-Portrait, was exhibited. The artist highly increased his interest in dadaism in this period, and he began creating mechanical and photographic methods of producing images. For instance, he combined a spray-gun with pen drawing. In 1920, he founded along with Duchamp, and Katherine Dreier the Société Anonyme, which became probably the first museum of modern art in the United States.

Starting from 1921, Man Ray made his living in Paris and he increased his overall influence in the field of photography. Famous artists like James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Bridget Bate Tichenor, and Antonin Artaud, posed for Man Ray and his camera. In the 1930s, surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim posed nude for Ray in a famous photography series. Ray also created a photogram he named ‘rayographs’ he used to describe as ‘pure dadaism’. But, next to his ambitions in photography, the artist also directed a series of short films, which became known as Cinéma Pur.

In the 1960s, Man Ray published his autobiography, which was again republished in 1999. He passed away in November 1976 and his wife, Juliet, organized a trust for his work and donated much of his work to museums.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture on Dadaism and Duchamp by David Joselit.

References and Further Reading:

[1] Man Ray at the official May Ray Trust Website
[2] Man Ray at the NY Times
[3] Man Ray – Unconcerned, but not indifferent"

Aug 27, 15

"Museum period rooms for the twenty-first century: salvaging ambition
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Julius Bryanta*

pages 73-84
Publishing models and article dates explained

Received: 13 May 2008
Published online: 26 Mar 2009

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In the late twentieth century, many museums dismantled and disposed of their period rooms. Current trends, however, reveal a revival, driven by the popularity of historic interiors with the public, by the desire of museums to attract new audiences and by their need to address questions of local, social and national identity. Recent initiatives are proving controversial. This article surveys recent developments and provides a rationale for evaluating the role and merits of surviving period rooms. Further, it points to the scholarly potential of period rooms today when presented and interpreted, not as decorative arts displays or as local history narratives (or as confusing combinations of both approaches), but through the broader cross-disciplinary context of material culture studies. It calls for greater awareness of the underlying social values that each period room promotes."

Aug 27, 15

"Deliberate Targeting of Water Sources Worsens Misery for Millions of Syrians
By Kanya D'Almeida Reprint | | Print | Send by email
The conflict in Syria has destroyed much of the country’s water infrastructure, leaving five million people suffering from a critical water shortage. Credit: Bigstock

The conflict in Syria has destroyed much of the country’s water infrastructure, leaving five million people suffering from a critical water shortage. Credit: Bigstock

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 26 2015 (IPS) - Imagine having to venture out into a conflict zone in search of water because rebel groups and government forces have targeted the pipelines. Imagine walking miles in the blazing summer heat, then waiting hours at a public tap to fill up your containers. Now imagine realizing the jugs are too heavy to carry back home.

This scene, witnessed by an engineer with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is becoming all too common in embattled Syria. In this case, the child sent to fetch water was a little girl who simply sat down and cried when it became clear she wouldn’t be able to get the precious resource back to her family.

Compounded by a blistering heat wave, with temperatures touching a searing 40 degrees Celsius in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s water shortage is reaching critical levels, the United Nations said Wednesday.

In an Aug. 26 press relief, UNICEF blasted parties to the conflict for deliberately targeting the water supply, adding that it has recorded 18 intentional water cuts in Aleppo in 2015 alone.

Such a move – banned under international law – is worsening the misery of millions of war-weary civilians, with an estimated five million people enduring the impacts of long interruptions to their water supply in the past few months.

“Clean water is both a basic need and a fundamental right, in Syria as it is anywhere else,” Peter Salama, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement today. “Denying civilians access to water is a flagrant violation of the laws of war and must end.”

In some communities taps have remained dry for up to 17 consecutive days; in others, the dry spell has lasted over a month.

Often times the task of fetching water from collection points or public taps falls to children. It is not only exhausting work, but exceedingly dangerous in the conflict-ridden country. UNICEF says that three children have died in Aleppo in recent weeks while they were out in search of water.

Related IPS Articles

Clean Water Another Victim of Syria’s War
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In cities like Aleppo and Damascus, as well as the southwestern city of Dera’a, families are forced to consume water from unprotected and unregulated groundwater sources. Most likely contaminated, these sources put children at risk of water-borne diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea.

With supply running so low and demand for water increasing by the day, water prices have shot up – by 3,000 percent in places like Aleppo – making it even harder for families to secure this life-sustaining resource.

Ground fighting and air raids have laid waste much of the country’s water infrastructure, destroying pumping stations and severing pipelines at a time when municipal workers cannot get in to make necessary repairs.

To top it off, the all-too-frequent power cuts prevent technicians and engineers from pumping water into civilian areas.

UNICEF has trucked in water for over half-a-million people, 400,000 of them in Aleppo. The agency has also rehabilitated 94 wells serving 470,000 people and distributed 300,000 litres of fuel to beef up public water distribution systems in Aleppo and Damascus, where the shortage has impacted 2.3 million and 2.5 million people respectively. In Dera’a, a quarter of a million people are also enduring the cuts.

A 40-billion-dollar funding gap is preventing UNICEF from revving up its water, hygiene and sanitation operations around Syria. To tackle the crisis in Aleppo and Damascus alone the relief agency says it urgently needs 20 million dollars – a request that is unlikely to be met given the funding shortfall gripping humanitarian operations across the U.N. system.

Overall, water availability in Syria is about half what it was before 2011, when a massive protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad quickly turned into a violent insurrection that now involves over four separate armed groups including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Well into its fifth year, the war shows no sign of abating.

As the U.N. marks World Water Week (Aug. 23-28) its eyes are on the warring parties in Syria who must be held accountable for using water to achieve their military and political goals.

Edited by Kitty Stapp"

Aug 27, 15

includes video of process

"Ilana Kolihanov uses water colors and eyebrow comb to simulate her pets furry coat
By Times of Israel staff August 27, 2015, 4:43 am


Makeup artist Ilana Kolihanov and her dog Ivy (YouTube screen grab)
Makeup artist Ilana Kolihanov and her dog Ivy (YouTube screen grab)

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For Israeli makeup artist Ilana Kolihanov, dogged dedication to her work brings some, well, rather dogged results.

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In her latest work posted to Youtube, Kolihanov presents the process by which she tranforms herself into her pet Siberian Husky, Ivy.

Kolihanov, whose works include tigers, aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean’s Davy Jones and Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat, explains that Huskies “are one of my very favorite breeds, so I just wanted to turn myself into (one) for a day.”

To achieve the authentic furry look, Kolihanov uses water colors and an eyebrow comb."

Aug 27, 15

"A few years ago, before sous vide infiltrated restaurant kitchens, every other menu featured a "slow-cooked" fish or shellfish. Slow cooking may sound like a daunting technique, but it's really just what it advertises -- fish or shellfish cooked gently and patiently over low heat, usually in a warm bath of olive oil or butter.

Slow poaching is now the technique I use most often on weeknights when I'm busy and want a low maintenance but delicious main course, and for dinner parties, when I want to serve fish but don't want to worry about sauteeing at the last minute.

We have a terrific fish vendor at our local farmers market (Borough Hall in Brooklyn Heights). His seafood is so fresh and pristine that there's nothing more I want to do with it than cook it simply, seasoned with sea salt and spritzed with a lemon wedge at the table. And I certainly don't want to risk overcooking it, which is one of the reasons poaching fish or shellfish in olive oil is such a genius method. An oil bath creates a protective cocoon around the seafood so none of the edges dry out, and just enough of the oil clings to it to give the seafood a buttery feel. And because of the low temperature, the seafood isn't done one minute and overcooked the next -- day-dreamers and multi-taskers get a time buffer. Chances are you'll end up with fish or shrimp that tastes pure and clean, and pairing possibilities that are endless (think salsa verde, romesco, grits and risotto)."

Aug 26, 15

"It’s been in the Guardian. It’s been in the Daily Mail. It’s been in the Times of Israel. It’s even been in Mosaic, which picked it up from the Jerusalem Post. “Did The Lilliputians Speak Hebrew?” was the headline. Elsewhere the story has been titled “Gulliver’s Travels Decoded,” “Scientist Deciphers Mystery Words from Gulliver’s Travels,” and “UH Linguist Explains Secret Language of Gulliver’s Travels.”

The last of these captions comes from an August 10 press release issued by the University of Houston, on which, as far as I can determine, all the other stories are based. This PR item, in turn, cites an article published by Irving N. Rothman, a professor in the university’s English literature department, in the latest volume of Swift Studies, an annual review of scholarship dealing with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the author of Gulliver’s Travels, that is put out by the Ehrenpreis Center of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität of Münster, Germany. Since, however, I have found no way of getting hold of this volume, or of Rothman’s full-length article on “The ‘Hnea Yahoo’ of Gulliver’s Travels and Jonathan Swift’s Hebrew Neologisms,” I will have to make do with the press release.

Believe me, dear reader, that’s quite enough. It’s total rubbish."

Aug 26, 15

" by Neery Melkonian on August 25, 2015

A view of San Lazarro degli Armeni, the site of the Armenian Pavilion for the 2015 Venice Biennale. (all photos Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

A view of the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, the site of the Armenian Pavilion for the 2015 Venice Biennale. (all photos by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Editor’s note: The following essay was first published in the catalogue for Armenity, which accompanied the Armenian pavilion of the same name at the 2015 Venice Biennale. The Amenity exhibition won this year’s Golden Lion for best national pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

* * *

But they will also be different — different from how they used to be, these songs. For I have turned and found longing at my side, and I have looked into her eyes, and now she leads me with a steady hand.

—Rilke, in a lengthy love letter dated July 6, 1898

Since its inception a couple of decades ago following Armenia’s independence, the curatorial direction of the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale leaned predominantly towards showcasing artists who work/live in Yerevan. Except when sponsors were needed, the participation of the global diaspora was largely bypassed and limited to one or two expats and an occasional celebrity artist."

intriguing modern art on memory

Aug 26, 15

Julie, Julia and me: Now it can be told
Nora Ephron's 'Julie & Julia' gets the tale just right.
August 12, 2009|RUSS PARSONS



At a certain point in the wonderful new movie "Julie & Julia," there is a plot twist so shocking the audience gasps. Julia Child does something that seems so totally out of character that even on the way out, people were still shaking their heads. "How could she?" Well, that's one mystery I can solve. I was right there in the middle of it.

Before I go any further, I have to warn you that this column is as full of spoilers as an unplugged refrigerator in August. If you haven't already seen the movie, you might want to wait to read this until after you have.

And you certainly should see it. "Julie & Julia" is superb on so many levels. It's a terrific story to begin with, how two women from completely different generations claim their identities through food.

Meryl Streep is astonishing. The way she captures Julia Child is something special. Streep inhabits her in a way that is eerie. Watch her move: Pay attention to the way she holds her elbows and cocks her head. That's Julia.

More important, while Streep certainly gets Julia's sometimes loopy enthusiasm, she also gets the deep seriousness that was obvious only to those who knew her fairly well. This is no Dan Aykroyd skit; this is Julia Child with gravitas, which is to say the real Julia Child. In fact, leaving the theater and looking at the poster, I had to remind myself that Julia Child did NOT have Meryl Streep's face.

Amy Adams is also appealing as Julie Powell, the blogger who set herself the task of cooking completely through Julia's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in a single year. And writing about it on her blog (which she later turned into a book). That likability is no small trick when playing a character whose main literary attribute was pretty much one endless whine.

All of that only makes the plot twist so much more shocking. When Julie is told late in the movie that Julia Child doesn't like the blog, she collapses in tears.

And we wonder too. How could Julia do such a thing?


The scoop

Ahem, I'm pretty much knee-deep in that episode. I was the first writer for a major newspaper to write about the "Julie/Julia" blog. (I know, never mind what the movie says: Check the publication dates and you'll see that my story ran almost a full month before the Christian Science Monitor's; and don't even get me started on my good friend former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser nabbing an actual appearance in the film, skinny little witch.)

When Julia had moved to her retirement home in Montecito, I had taken advantage of her proximity to deepen what up to that time had been a cordial professional friendship. Whenever I traveled north, I would make a point to see her, bring her lunch, take her to dinner, even just stop for a drink and a chat. I was so lucky.

When I found "The Julie/Julia Project" online, I was fascinated by it. It seemed to me that finally here was a cooking blog that was succeeding on its own literary terms. Rather than mimicking mainstream media, Powell was taking what works best about blogs -- the intimate feeling of sharing someone's innermost thoughts in something approaching real time -- and using it to write about cooking.

"Julie/Julia" worked brilliantly, particularly when read in short bursts. Powell created a likable character (well, as I said, in short bursts), and the plot had a genuine sense of suspense -- remember, it was being posted as it happened, so you really didn't know whether she would finish or crash and burn. This was true both in the short term (could she succeed with a dish?) and the long (could she really keep her sanity through 524 recipes?).

Of course, I was also interested in what Julia may might think about it. So I printed out the whole thing and took it up to her. She hadn't heard about it, but promised to have a look and get back to me.

I didn't hear from her for several days, so eventually I called her up. "So Julia," I asked, "what do you think?"

There was a silence as she gathered her thoughts. Then in that familiar reedy voice she nailed the answer: "Well," she said, "she just doesn't seem very serious, does she?

"I worked very hard on that book. I tested and retested those recipes for eight years so that everybody could cook them. And many, many people have. I don't understand how she could have problems with them. She just must not be much of a cook."

She asked me not to quote her, and after thinking it over, I didn't, choosing a valued friendship over a couple of juicy paragraphs in a story. I'm still not sure it was the right call, but there you have it.

So that solves part of the mystery of Julia's dis: professional pride.

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who knew her well. One of the marvelous things about Julia Child was that even with all of the honors she had earned, she still approached her work with the earnestness (and competitiveness) of a beginner."

Aug 26, 15

"August 25, 2015, 04:54 pm
Trump, Hillary are distant relatives, experts say

By Judy Kurtz

Getty Images

It’s all in the family for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — the presidential front-runners are reportedly related.

The genealogy website tells entertainment show “Extra” that the GOP and Democratic White House candidates are 19th cousins.

The first Duke and Duchess of Lancaster are Trump and Clinton’s 18th great-grandparents, according to the site's analysis.

“John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, married Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, and John and Katherine are Donald and Hillary’s shared 18th great grandparents,” reports “Extra.”

Author A.J. Jacobs, who studied the research, told the television program of the two 2016 hopefuls, “Their 19th great grandfather is King Edward III so there is precedent for ruling a country; it’s in their genes.”

The relative revelation isn’t the first time political opposites have turned out to be family members.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, revealed in 2007 that while researching her ancestry for her memoir, she discovered her husband and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) were actually eighth cousins.

“Every family has a black sheep,” an Obama spokesman said at the time.

One theory claims that every American president except for Obama all share a common European royal ancestor. "

Aug 26, 15

"The President-elect of the British Psychological Association drops the N word and invokes the Holocaust in denouncing mental health professionals who embrace the biomedical model.

The conversation concerning Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia (hereafter UPS) took another wrong turn with extended references to Nazism and the Holocaust in a blog post by Peter Kinderman, Me, my brain and baked beans. Goodwin’s rule is once again confirmed.

British psychological societyPeter Kinderman is one of the main spokespersons for the British Psychological Society UPS document. The blog further identifies him as a Professor at University of Liverpool, and the President-elect of the British Psychological Society.

Godwin’s Rule or Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies is “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.“ Michael Godwin elaborates on it in I Seem To Be A Verb: 18 Years of Godwin’s Law:

I created Godwin’s Law and began to repeat it in online forums whenever I encountered a silly comparison of someone or something to Hitler or to the Nazis…. My feeling is that “Never Again” loses its meaning if we don’t regularly remind ourselves of the terrible inflection point marked in human culture by the Holocaust. Sure, there has been genocide before that point and genocide after it, but to see an advanced, highly civilized nation warp itself into something capable of creating such a horror—well, I think Nazi Germany does count as a first in that regard. And to a great extent, our challenge as human beings who live in the period after that inflection point is that we no longer can be passive about history—we have a moral obligation to do what we can to prevent such events from ever happening again. Key to that obligation is remembering, which is what Godwin’s Law is all about.

Those horrified by the Holocaust as a unique historical event see invoking it casually in political or professional rivalries as a “gross misappropriation of the past and an obscene misuse of history.”

The continued misuse and trivialization of the word prompted Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and chronicler of the Holocaust, to discontinue using it. “Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it ‘holocaust,'” Wiesel said. “I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a ‘holocaust.'”

This will be a long read edition of PLOS Mind the Brain because of extensive direct quotes from BPS President-elect Kinderman. His statements strain all credibility. I don’t want any ambiguity as to whether I made them up.

Readers are encouraged to retrieve Kinderman’s blog post and see for themselves. It is posted at the anti-psychiatry blog, Mad in America.

A résumé of what his blog reveals"

NB lots of discussion of Godwin, etc. useful for other purposes

Aug 26, 15


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Home > Vol 3, No 1 (2015) > Heather
Peter Heather


No serious scholar believes that migration of various kinds did not play a significant role in events of the first millennium AD, but the extent and importance of any large-group migration is particularly controversial. This paper seeks to think again about this highly controversial dimension of the subject area. Given that neither revisionist accounts of the operation of group identities, nor archaeological materials offer any sure guidance on the matter, it suggests that some of the available historical materials are worth taking more seriously, and explores the kind ofpicture that emerges from them.


Migration; Historiography

Full Text:

Aug 26, 15

"Migration is the theme of the latest issue of the journal: Networks and Neighbours. It opens with a seminal article by Peter Heather on the controversial question of the character of the large-scale migration in the 4th and 5th centuries.

The journal Networks and Neighbours (N&N) is a voice of the larger project of scholars by the same name. The project sponsors conference panels and runs master-classes, lectures and other events, including our annual symposium rotating biannually between the University of Leeds and select sites around the globe. This international, or rather post-national, and also extra-institutional, intellectual spirit is embodied in the journal N&N. To this end we invite, in addition to original research articles and book reviews in a diversity of languages, reports from conferences and other related early medieval research activities worldwide.

Networks and Neighbours 2015, Vol. 3, No. 1: Migration
Table of Contents

Networks and neighbours Cover 2015Migration
By Peter Heather


No serious scholar believes that migration of various kinds did not play a significant role in events of the first millennium AD, but the extent and importance of any large-group migration is particularly controversial. This paper seeks to think again about this highly controversial dimension of the subject area. Given that neither revisionist accounts of the operation of group identities, nor archaeological materials offer any sure guidance on the matter, it suggests that some of the available historical materials are worth taking more seriously, and explores the kind of picture that emerges from them.

Genealogy, Labour and Land: The Settlement of the Mýramenn in Egils saga
By Santiago Barreir


This study analyses the way in which the thirteenth-century Egils saga Skallagrímssonar presented the migration to Iceland of Egill’s father Grímr and grandfather Úlfr, and the creation of a settlement in the area of Borgarfjǫrðr in Western Iceland during the tenth century. Egils saga aimed to present the migration as a foundational act, which enabled the descendants of the settlers (the lineage known as Mýramenn) to claim inalienable rights over the lands settled by Grímr. The saga highlights three main shared markers of identity amongst the family members: their burial in barrows, their skill as farm managers, and the transference of both personal traits and material goods from one generation to the next. This led to a form of legitimation that included an ideology of a quasi-aristocratic lineage of landowners with the typical traits of the self-made men of the frontier. In contrast, it presented the martial deeds of these men as less meaningful. Moreover, the saga explored alternative ways (personified by each member of the main family) to deal with the rulers of Norway. This kingdom was presented as the historical homeland of Icelanders and as more central for them than other foreign lands. This paper holds that the main alternatives proposed by the saga were in service of the kings (expressed by both Þórólfrs) against independence (exemplified by Úlfr, Grímr, and Egill), but that simultaneously each character presented nuances which might reflect ideological variety within a peripheral immigrant society.

Conference Report Networks and Neighbours 2014
By Michael J Kelly

This is a report of the Networks and Neighbours Symposium held in April 2014, in Curitiba, Brazil.

Conference Report: East and West in the Early Middle Ages: The Merovingian Kingdoms in Mediterranean Perspective
By Lia Sternizki

This report gives a summary of the four-day conference on the Merovingian kingdoms in Mediterranean perspective which was held in Freie Universität, Berlin between the 17th and 20th of December, 2014. Sponsored by the Minerva-Gentner Symposia and organised by Prof. Stefan Esders (Berlin) and Prof. Yitzhak Hen (Be’er Sheva), the conference featured many leading scholars of international renown in Early Medieval History, Archaeology and Merovingian studies, whose presentations amount to an up-to-date and exceptional contribution to the existing state of knowledge on the reciprocal relationships between the Frankish kingdoms, the Byzantine Empire, and the Islamic world in the Merovingain period. The crux of each paper is provided in this conference report, as well as an outline of the main themes drawn out by the participants.

Conference Report: High and Low Literature in Late Antiquity
By Hope Deejune Williard

This report surveys the papers given at the second annual meeting of the International Society for Late Antique Literary Studies, held at Boston University in November 2014. The theme of the meeting was ‘High and Low Literature in Late Antiquity’.

Conference Report: Network for the Study of Caroline Minuscule Inaugural Colloquium
By N. Kıvılcım Yavuz

This is a report of the inaugural colloquium of the Network for the Study of Caroline Minuscule.

Intentionally deformed skull from the HNHM Post-Pleistocen Collection. Facial reconstructions of artificially deformed skulls from he Hun-German Period, HNHM Facial Reconstruction Collection. Hungarian Natural History Museum. Source:"

Aug 25, 15

"Fascinating Fascism

by Susan Sontag (1933-2004)

New York Review of Books
February 6, 1975

republished in:
Under the Sign of Saturn
(New York, 1980), pp. 73-105.

Translations: Belorussian; German;
The Last of the Nuba by Leni Riefenstahl (1974)
SS Regalia by Jack Pia (1974)


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